Just Eat, the food delivery giant of Europe, has announced plans to introduce self-driving delivery robots to London streets in the coming months.
Just Eat is teaming up with Starship Technologies, an Estonia-based startup created by Skype’s cofounders, to launch a trial with a handful of restaurants that will see some customers’ food delivered by a mini six-wheeled robot. The trial is expected to kick off within the next few months, and a few details of how the order and delivery process will work has been revealed.
It’s expected that the robots will travel up to a mile initially, though there is potential to expand that up to three miles if trials go well. The little machines drive completely autonomously, though they are monitored remotely by human operators, and are replete with 9 cameras, ultrasonic sensors with a 360-degree field of vision, and a 30cm braking distance.
Upon arrival at their destination, the customer enters a secure code to access their meals.
Similar to GrubHub, Just Eat aggregates restaurants from across the culinary spectrum and lets users order and pay for food in-app. Buoyed by its $2.45 billion IPO in 2014, the company today operates in 15 markets across Europe, the Americas, and Oceania.
Starship Technologies has been testing the robots across U.S. and European cities since the end of last year, and it was previously revealed that retailers from other sectors will be trialing robot deliveries in a commercial setting in the U.K. capital, though it hadn’t yet revealed which companies were on board. Separately, Amazon has previously announced it is working on bringing drone-powered deliveries to market too.
Introducing unmanned deliveries into the wild raises many questions, of course — surely a robot working its way through urban London with tasty food on-board is ripe for interference, be it vandals or other forms of harassment? Apparently not. “In all the tests that have taken place so far, there has not been a single case of theft or vandalism,” a spokesperson told VentureBeat. “The robots have many theft-prevention features, including the cameras as well as tracking to the nearest inch.”
This announcement comes as Just Eat vowed to grow its product R&D team, pledging to spend around $60 million in marketing and technology in the U.K. alone this year. And last month, the company revealed plans for a new Apple TV app that lets anyone on the same Wi-Fi network sync their iPhones so they can place a combined order from multiple devices.
“As soon as we met the Starship team, we found their passion for their product infectious,” said David Buttress, CEO of Just Eat. “With scalable innovation at the core of their business, they are the perfect partner for us at Just Eat as we continuously look for sustainable ways to use technology to make our customers’ and restaurant partners’ lives easier. We can’t wait to bring the delivery robots to local high streets very soon.”